Teens, Entitlement and Instant Gratification

We live in a world where we want things done yesterday. Instant gratification. We have access to the internet via our phones. At any second we can catch up with the news, check our bank accounts, and send an email. We can purchase something and have it delivered within 2 days. We can check our children’s grades online at any time, book an appointment, do research instantly. A decade ago, this wasn’t the case. We used to have to go to the library to research something, make a phone call to cancel or make an appointment, wait until report cards came out or wait until the evening news to catch up.

Today’s generation will never know those times. What are the ramifications of this? Working with teens, I have seen how they get frustrated with not getting what they want when they want it. They don’t seem to understand that they sometimes have to wait to fix something or to get something. I have also experienced them be-ing frustrated because a teacher gave them a bad grade or a grade they did not feel they deserve.

Oftentimes, kids feel they should be given a cell phone, no questions asked. They want to be praised just for showing up for school or for doing a chore around the house. Many times, children are given awards for playing a sport. Not for winning, just for playing. Sometimes they still receive an award even when they lose. I’ve witnessed siblings receiving a gift when it is another sibling’s birthday, just so that they don’t feel left out. What is that teaching them? I’ll tell you what it’s teaching them: entitlement and instant gratification, and it’s not a pretty picture.

Have you ever thought about it before? Do you think you are raising an entitled and instant gratification seeking kid?

Here are some signs of entitlement from writer Tim Elmore from The Huffington Post (2014):

1. I want it now. Kids are impatient and who can blame them? We live in an instant gratification culture. And often we find ourselves living in fear of saying no be-cause our children are used to getting what they want.

2. I don’t want to work for it. Why work for something that will be given to you? When we constantly give to our kids without requiring any work, this fosters a cy-cle of laziness and poor work ethic. Kids need entry points to contribute to jobs or home chores.

3. I don’t have to clean up my mess. Adults must learn to choose their wars, but responsible living means that if you make a mess, you clean it up. You must live with the benefits or consequences of your actions.

4. I want it because everyone else has it. Society seeps in by telling us we need a gadget or some clothes because “everyone” has it. Instead of deciding if that pos-session (or grade) is appropriate or deserved, we fall into a comparison trap.

5. I expect you to fix my problems. We all love to help kids, but they often expect mom or teacher to make it right instead of learning to confront challenges on their own. This prevents them from learning about consequences or hard work.

Kids need to learn how to earn things, not just be handed them. I once had a young adult, age 20, come into my office and actually expect to be hired as a CEO of a local company that he had applied to. He had never worked a day in his life, had no higher education, no skill set or trade. He didn’t even own a suit to go on a profes-sional job interview, had he ever be called for one. Needless to say, the company did not call him, and he was upset and appalled that they wouldn’t want him. I didn’t know a lot about his background, but he was apparently given a lot in his life; enough to make him feel that he didn’t have to work for things. How sad is that? Similar kids and young adults like him will have a difficult road ahead of them unless we help them to look at the bigger picture and to put in effort, time and dedication to better themselves.

Help your child avoid this type of disappointment by not giving them everything they ask for. Let them earn it. If they want extra money, chores or some project can be assigned to them in order to earn that money. This way they can start to learn a sense of accomplishment and a reward for their hard work and dedication.

It would also be helpful to teach your kids that the good things in life often take time and that waiting for those good things to happen can be a positive experience, not a negative one. An example could be that college typically takes 4 years to complete. It takes time, dedication and hard work but the payoff is a degree, some- thing that was earned and can never be taken away. This also leads you to a better paying job and more security in your future. It isn’t handed to you and it isn’t in-stant but it’s worth it.

Source: Elmore, T. (2014, Feb. 26). From Entitled to Empowered: Eight Steps to Combat Entitlement in the Classroom. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-elmore/from-entitled-to-empowere_1_b_4855109.html

Erin Pawlak, MS, LPCC Therapist and Adolescent IOP Director